Fire risk ‘dire,’ grand jury asks for more funds |

Fire risk ‘dire,’ grand jury asks for more funds

Forest fires pose an increasingly dire threat to Nevada County, according to a grand jury report issued Monday, and more should be spent on wildfire preparedness.

“Additional amounts spent on fire preparedness activities will reduce direct economic impact on the county following a major fire,” the report by the 2002-2003 civil grand jury report concluded.

Tony Clarabut, unit chief of the district for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said he does not think there is enough funding for fire prevention. But he also said of the report: “I think their assessment of the problem is fair. There is need for improvement.”

Supervisor Peter Van Zant said he would support the recommendation to give more money to fire prevention programs – if there is money available. “I thought that was a very good grand jury report,” Van Zant said Monday.

The report said, “There is a growing realization that the rapid increase in population in the urban/wild land interface, along with a buildup of so-called ‘ladder’ vegetation fuels, pose a dire threat to communities, such as those in Nevada County.”

The report also stated the Board of Supervisors should also estimate the cost of a major wildfire, given the current resources, and coordinate evacuation plans with the local fire district.

The Board of Supervisors has set aside $388,571 in state public safety funds for fire prevention this fiscal year, the report said. That is 7.75 percent of the money the county receives every year for public safety under Proposition 172.

Another $63,000 in federal funds has been allocated to the Fire Safety Council of Nevada County, a nonprofit organization that promotes fire prevention programs. The county could allocate another $176,000 in federal monies this year for fire prevention, the grand jury said.

But Clarabut said property owners also should step up to the plate and maintain their properties. “It’s not all about public money,” he said.

The grand jury recommended the county “coordinate evacuation planning with the local fire districts,” and also urged the supervisors to allocate more state public safety money to the county’s 11 fire districts.

The 49er fire in 1988 consumed 33,500 acres and destroyed 148 dwellings and 356 structures in the county.

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